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Friday, August 21, 2015

What's In A Name?

By Jan Pease

Why do we name our children the names we give them?  We name our children names we like, or family names, or names that don’t make unfortunate nicknames.  

 How do writers name characters?   Elle Cosimano has written two books about a character with a memorable name, Nearly; she explains the name on her website,  “Nearly Gone” and “Nearly Found”  tell about the life of a teen who tries to stay “under the radar,” because there are so many things in her life that would make her a target for bullies.  Nearly has an unusual name, her mom works as a stripper, her dad has vanished, and  they live in a trailer park in Washington D.C.   There is a touch of the paranormal in the books, because Nearly has a gift for “tasting” the emotions of a person she touches.  These thrillers begin slowly and build in suspense.  Reviews were lukewarm for “Nearly Found,” but readers at gave it five stars and the second book is loved by readers who were fans of the first book.

Two recent books look at eating disorders from an unusual perspective, that of young men who are  struggling with their weight.  “Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have,”  by Allen Zadoff, has been around for a while, but I missed it when it was published in 2011.  This is the story of a boy who weighs just over 300 pounds and obviously doesn’t fit in.  His journey to self-awareness and self-acceptance may seem a bit too easy, since our hero will probably have a life-long struggle with weight issues.  But I think this is an important look at an issue that just isn’t discussed.  There is some locker room language in this one, especially since our hero joins the football team.

Locker room language abounds in “Biggie,” by Derek Sullivan.  The hero is really not very likeable, and the other characters are not terribly sympathetic, but somehow it works.   But this is another look at the difficulties faced by a very overweight teenaged boy.   This time the sport that helps him come to terms is baseball.

Victoria Schwab has written two books that feel like the beginning of a series. They are “The Archived” and “The Unbound,” and our copies have arrived.  In these novels, copies of people’s lives are kept in an archive, like books.  They are maintained by librarians, but now and then the histories become restless and try to escape.  The librarians then must dispatch Keepers to hunt and capture the crazed histories.  I’m so glad my job involves real books and not ghosties.  "The Unbound" is the second book, and sounds like a page-turner.

Nimona,” by Noelle Stephenson, is a new graphic novel based on Stephenson’s web comic.  The comic is no longer available online, because now the entire story is available in book form.  Nimona is a shape shifter who constantly causes trouble. The character descriptions at are hilarious and make me want to check out the book.

Finally, Rick Atkinson has adapted his book, “The Guns at Last Light,” for younger readers in “The Battle of the Bulge.”     Some reviewers thought the book would be too difficult for its audience of 8-12 year olds, but I know that we have some incredible readers who tackle books if they are interested in the subject, and many young people are fascinated by the history of warfare.  “The Battle of the Bulge” might help adults make sense of Hitler’s final attempt to break the Allied Forces.  Great books are waiting for you at your public library.